Nonexertional Impairment

For purposes of Social Security Disability criteria, the Social Security Administration defines nonexertional impairment as any impairment which is not related to your ability to perform the exertional (strength-related) aspects of a job. Exertional impairments are limited to those which cause difficulty pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, or walking. An impairment may be deemed a nonexertional impairment even if it is physical in nature (i.e., carpal tunnel syndrome) if it does not directly affect one of those seven activities.

There are five main types of nonexertional impairment which are recognized for Social Security Disability purposes. These include:

  • Postural. Postural impairments which limit your ability to stand, sit, or walk are exertional. Other postural impairments, such as those which limit your ability to kneel, bend, squat, turn your head, or stoop down are nonexertional impairments. Another example of a postural nonexertional impairment in one in which you must stay in a set position, such as with your legs elevated, which can hinder productive work.

  • Manipulative. Manipulative nonexertional impairments are those which hinder your ability to use your hands or fingers. If you have difficulty typing, using a computer mouse, grasping small objects, or keeping your hands steady, you have a manipulative nonexertional impairment.

  • Environmental. Social Security Disability eligibility may be established based in part on your inability to adapt to environmental conditions. Examples of environmental nonexertional impairments include those which make it difficult for you to breathe or those which make it impossible to carry work out due to intolerances regarding noise, dust, fumes, or other environmental factors.

  • Sensory. Many Social Security Disability claims are accepted based on your inability to see, hear, or feel. In rare instances, lack of ability to smell or taste can have an effect on Social Security Disability eligibility.

  • Mental. Social Security Disability requirements recognize many mental and emotional issues which can hinder your ability to work, and these are all considered nonexertional impairments. These include depression, bipolar disorder, and any other mental condition which stops you from working.